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Home hits 4000

Sunday Herald Sun

3 July 2005

HOME AND AWAY

Friday 7pm, Seven

Who would have thought both our enduring evening soaps would be enjoying major milestones in the same year.

This Friday, Home And Away celebrates its 4000th episode by throwing a surprise 60th birthday party for Alf (Ray Meagher), giving producers the chance to bring back a swag of past characters as party guests.

In July, Ten's Neighbours celebrates its 20th year with a storyline that also brings back many of its past characters. But more about that later.

This week's lead-up episodes of Home And Away are full of the usual relationship crises, but weaved throughout them are everyone's attempts to keep Alf, who is nosy at the best of times, in the dark about his surprise party.

When the night arrives, it makes for great viewing, although the director is hard pressed trying to put everyone's head on screen, weaving characters past the cameras like a choreographed game of musical chairs. But it is great fun to play spot the star.

Among the former cast members returning are Rebekah Elmaloglou (Sophie), Barbara Stephens (Barbara), Peter Vroom (Lance), Kristy Wright (Chloe), Brendan McKensy (Duncan), Les Hill (Blake), Fiona Spence (Celia), Norman Coburn (Fisher), Debra Lawrance (Pippa), Ryan Clark (Sam), Laura Vasquez (Sarah), Zac Drayson (Will) and Cameron Welsh (Mitch).

It was delightful speaking to a few of these actors because most of them have been missing from our screens for some time. And acting being the tough business it is, some of them have moved on to second jobs or ancillary careers.

Vroom, for example, works as an IT support person at the University of NSW.

"I've finally made myself indispensable," he says with a laugh.

Vroom, 36 and single, says while he misses acting, he could not have survived on the few short films and plays he was involved in.

"I'm lucky with this IT job, because I enjoy turning up for work every day," he says.

"But I'm flexible about the future -- I'd like to maybe give acting another serious go by the time I turn 40."

Elmaloglou, 31, still has those smouldering dark features and wonderful smile, but these days she has to supplement her income by working as design assistant for a Sydney lingerie company.

"I was only 18 when I left Home And Away," she says.

"I've done lots of other things (guest roles in TV series, films and theatre), but I'm at that age now where I'm either too old or too young for many roles."

But she has not given up on her acting career.

"I have a great fondness for the Australian television industry. Acting is still my passion," she says.

Stephens is another who will make an instant impression with viewers on Friday's show, largely because of her string of impressive performances on stage for the Melbourne Theatre Company.

But these days she lives on the NSW south coast with husband Graham Pugh (a writer and stand-up comic).

"It's very hard to find work in television as an actor because of the predominance of reality shows," she says. "I'm out of the loop, I guess, but I'm quite happy.

"Coming back to Melbourne for Alf's 60th birthday was just great. It was also very social catching up with all my acting friends from the early days of the show."

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